Boehner defends Romney's critique of individual mandate


(CBS News) In an interview on "Face the Nation," House Speaker John Boehner said he was surprised that the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionally of the health care mandate, but he defended Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's opposition to it, even though the former Massachusetts governor also passed a mandate in his state.

"This is an issue that was in Massachusetts - one state," Boehner said. "That's why we have 50 different states. They're laboratories of democracy. Gov. Romney understands that 'Obamacare' will bankrupt our country and ruin the best health care delivery system in the world."

Boehner said the president's health care plan "is far more than anything, any state had ever comprehended or even tried to do."

The Speaker said the Supreme Court ruling, which defined the mandate as a tax, strengthened his "resolve" to get rid of the law.

"All it really does is strengthen my resolve and resolve of Republicans here in Washington to repeal this awful law," Boehner said.

Boehner told host Norah O'Donnell that the House is going to vote - which it already has more than two dozen times - to repeal the law. "We'll do it one more time!" he told O'Donnell, "to show people we are resolved to get rid of this."

"This is the wrong direction. And while the court upheld it as constitutional, they certainly didn't say it was a good law," Boehner said. "Republicans believe in a common sense, step-by-step approach that will lower health care costs and allow the American people to choose the health insurance they want, not the health insurance the government wants them to have."

In response to questions by O' Donnell on whether Boehner likes any part of the law, he said, "There's always going to be parts of it that are good." The only provision he admitted to liking is the provision that people under 26 can stay on their parents' insurance plan. He pointed to the fact that some health insurance companies independently implemented that provision recently.

However, Speaker Boehner said the entire health care bill needs "to be ripped out by its roots," and that he would repeal the entire bill, even the parts he likes.

"We can replace, when we replace this we can have a common sense debate about which of these provisions ought to stay and which ought to go," he said.

"Republicans believe in a common sense, step-by-step approach to replacing this law. And all of those provisions, popular provisions, many of them very sound provisions, can in fact be done in a common sense way. But not in 2,700 pages that no one read," the Speaker said.

O'Donnell asked Boehner, "What about pre-existing conditions? What about the millions of Americans that have pre-existing conditions and are discriminated against?"

Boehner failed to directly answer the question, instead pivoting to what he sees are the problems with the president's health care bill. "We believe that the way it is done within 'Obamacare' is pushing the cost of health insurance for all Americans much too high. We believe that the state high-risk pools are a much more effective way to making sure that those with pre-existing conditions have access to affordable health insurance," he said.

Boehner offered three ideas that would replace the current health care bill, including allowing people to buy insurance across state lines.

He added: "Why wouldn't we allow small businesses to group together for the purchases of buying health insurance?" he asked. "Why wouldn't we deal with one of the big cost drivers in health care, and that is medical malpractice reform? . . . We believe ours will work just as well at much less cost to the American people," he said.

Because the Supreme Court said the health care mandate was a tax, Boehner said the tax is going to harm small businesses. "It's getting in the way of employers hiring new workers because of these increased costs of government-run health insurance," he said.

O'Donnell noted that the health care bill gives employers with 25 employees or less get a tax credit and businesses with 50 employees are exempt from providing health insurance, but Boehner said the real definition of small businesses are those with up to 500 employees.

"And we're raising their cost to no end," he said. "Now, a lot of employers are just going to pay the tax and dump their employees into these health exchanges where they're not going to be able to keep the health insurance they have. Remember, the President said if you like your health insurance you can keep it. It's not true."

"This is government taking over the entire health insurance industry. The American people do not want to go down this path. They do not want the government telling them what kind of insurance policy they have to buy, and how much they have to pay for it, and if you don't like it we're going to tax you," Boehner said.

Politifact noted in 2010 that the Republican line, which Boehner repeated, that the healthcare bill is "a government takeover" is false.

Speaker Boehner, though, said health care will be an issue this election. "Now we know that that's what this, when it comes to 'Obamacare,' that's what elections are for," he said.

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    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for